Courage requires us to remain steadfast in our beliefs. It asks that we stand by the convictions we express and never give an inch, no matter what the cost. However off base, wrongheaded, or patently false a position we’ve staked out may be, courage nonetheless demands that we blindly pound home our stupid fucking point, never letting up.
True valor is the moment in a conversation when you realize that what you’re saying is completely and utterly wrong, but you continue to say it over and over again anyway, only louder.
Suppose you’re discussing current events with a group of friends, one of whom politely challenges an assertion you’ve made about a particular issue. In such congenial gatherings, it can be tempting to back down, especially when someone has just put forth evidence that soundly debunks everything you’ve been saying. The courageous path takes more discipline. It means looking that friend in the eye and—though you know full well that you are totally wrong—saying, “No, I’m right.”
The same dilemma applies when you’re arguing with someone who obviously has far more information about a subject than you do. Basically, you have two choices: You can admit that you are out of your depth and that your lack of knowledge led you to the incorrect conclusion. Or you can dig in your heels, grit your teeth, and defend your misguided, uninformed opinion with every fiber of your being—even to the point of hysteria.
What is the measure of bravery? I think part of it has to do with how firmly we stand our ground when we have absolutely no fucking clue what we’re talking about.
Another part involves having the mental strength to steel our minds against any reasonable argument that might challenge one of our beliefs. This means cultivating the ability to remain totally impervious to logic, so that when someone points out a blatant error in our line of thought, we can simply shrug and ignore them.
Can you make statements you know to be false in a determined and measured tone of voice? Can you then continue to reel off untruths by pulling idiotic examples out of your ass to further illustrate your faulty point, all the while giving no one else a chance to respond? Can you look basic common sense in the face and laugh?
Because that is what courage asks of us.
It can get lonely sometimes, aggressively defending your false beliefs until you’ve alienated everyone around you. Bravely shouting over someone’s sensible comments in order to hammer home your idea—your idea that is wrong—won’t win you any popularity contests.
Meanwhile, anyone can fold in the face of facts, or listen to a well-reasoned argument and say, “You know what? You’re right, I never thought of it that way.” But that’s the coward’s way out. Listening carefully to a friend’s point, synthesizing the new information, and letting it influence your own perspective—these are all gutless acts.
You want to know what does takes guts, though? Smugly making the timeout sign and repeatedly shouting “No, no, no, no, no, you’re wrong!” to interrupt a person you know without a doubt is absolutely right.
Is courage scary? Sure. It can be terrifying. Do you think it’s easy to stand there while someone looks at you with an expression that says, “Wow, I don’t even think you believe what you’re saying”? Or to suddenly realize that everything you’ve been saying is moronic, but to forge ahead anyway, no matter what bullshit comes flying out of your mouth?
No, that takes balls of steel. But courage has its rewards, too. Sticking to your guns means never, ever having to own up to your mistakes. And it’s hard to put a price on that.